How to Take Care of Laying Hens

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Children can assist in the care for laying hens.
Children can assist in the care for laying hens. (Image: Adrian Samson/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Farms of all sizes utilize two types of laying hens: dual purpose and egg laying hens. Dual purpose hens lay eggs and have enough body mass to be good for meat. Egg laying hens have been bred to be smaller and lay more eggs per year. Both types of laying hens require additional care to keep the hens healthy and productive. Care for laying hens is generally low maintenance once you have the foundations in place. Children and teenagers can manage most of the day-to-day tasks.

Things You'll Need

  • Female pullets
  • Laying house or room
  • Hay
  • Lights
  • Heaters
  • Feed
  • Water
  • Troughs

Separate laying hens into a laying house or a separate room in the barn. Any dry, well-ventilated building can be used to house laying hens as long as there is adequate room.

Provide nesting boxes or cages. Provide either one 12- by 12- by 18-inch box for every five hens or one 12- by 16- by 18-inch cage with three hens in each. Boxes and cages should be placed approximately 2 feet above the ground with a roosting post near the entrance.

Ensure there is enough lighting available. All barns should have lights on timers set to 5 lux, whether or not the hens have access to sunlight during the day. When hens are 19 weeks old, light should be on 12 hours per day to start egg production. Lighting should then be gradually increased to 16 hours per day for maximum egg laying

Keep the barn temperature between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep a clean barn. Replace straw as soon as it begins to look damaged and trampled. Do not wait for it to smell, and promptly remove any wet spots. Perches will keep the hens from sleeping in the nesting boxes, which will keep the straw in the boxes cleaner longer. Treating hens for parasites will keep the barn clean and protect the other hens.

Feed the hens properly. Feed and water should always be available. Laying hens should be fed commercial laying mash, because laying feeds have all the essential vitamins and minerals in the mix. Calcium is especially important for shell formation.

Separate out broody hens. A hen is considered broody when it wants to keep its eggs and remain in the nest. Broody hens can attack other hen’s eggs and bite at your fingers if you come too close. Move broody hens to a separate room or cage without a nest for up to five days.

Separate out injured hens immediately. Chickens can become cannibalistic in the presence of blood or an obviously weak chicken.

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